Kolter Stevenson, Russian Summer, 2019
Kolter Stevenson is an alumnus of the 2019 summer Russian program in Chisinau, Moldova. Originally from Montana, he is completing his degree at the University of Montana, studying Russian, International Business, Finance, and Management Information Systems. Atop his four majors, he finds time to serve as a ski instructor and EMT and has founded a company to mitigate energy waste in residential dorms. Kolter plans to continue his study of Russian while learning more about diplomacy and energy in Russian-speaking nations while at Oxford.
He notes that his experiences volunteering in Moldova helped him improve his cross-cultural communication skills, which helped him develop his “passion for working with others from other cultures and designing technical solutions to problems from a cross-cultural perspective.” His favorite memories from the program are from volunteering, such as helping FLEX students improve their English and cultural knowledge before coming to the United States. Additionally, he notes that the relationships he built with his cohort members, resident director, and language partners have been instrumental in helping him continue to improve his language skills.
Kolter found ways to use his Russian outside of the classroom as well. This has ranged from using his language skills to teach skiing lessons in Russian to living with a host family while participating the Critical Language Scholarship program in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Kolter notes, “In my future career I think my language skills and cultural understanding of different Russian-speaking countries will be even more important, as I seek to tackle issues of energy security and renewable energy while factoring in cultural considerations for regions like Central Asia, the Baltics, and Eastern Europe.”
Kolter encourages others interested in opportunities like the Rhodes Scholarship to highlight their experiences on NSLI-Y. He believes NSLI-Y is a great opportunity to develop skills needed to also be successful during Rhodes. “Between learning different communication styles, living outside of one’s comfort zone, and the hard work of mastering a new language, I think the NSLI-Y program provides great background for fellowships and scholarships like the Rhodes Scholarships, as NSLI-Y program participants can […] showcase their dedication and passion for learning about others and using all of their potential!”
Samuel Harshbarger, Russian Summer, 2017
Samuel Harshbarger is also an alumnus of the Russian 2017 Summer program in Moscow, Russia. His interest in Russian began in middle school when he began to learn about indigenous people in the Russian Federation. In 2015, he won the AFS: Project Change essay contest with an essay on documenting indigenous culture and language in Russia. His interest in Russian politics and history only deepened further, leading to his desire to apply for NSLI-Y.
Sam’s time in Russia had a great impact on his professional and academic ambitions. He notes that his Russian language skills and experiences in Russia have “proved immensely useful to me in understanding Russian politics, history, and culture in the context of Russian foreign policy towards states in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East.” He is also grateful for the people-to-people connections he made in Russia and the ability to interact with ordinary Russian people.
Even though his academic focus has shifted from Russia to research in the Caucasus and Central Asia, he notes that his NSLI-Y experience has still been meaningful. He said, “The connections I forged with Russians of many backgrounds, as well as the many non-Russians who reside in Moscow, deeply shaped my sense of Russian society and politics today. Listening to and learning from such a diverse group of people during my time in Moscow helped me center empathy in my academic and professional work in the years since.”
Since completing his NSLI-Y program, Sam has pursued a concentration in History at Princeton University, with three minors in history and the practice of diplomacy; Near Eastern studies; and Russian, East European and Eurasian studies. At Oxford, he will pursue an MPhil in history. He is fluent in Spanish and Turkish and has maintained his advanced proficiency in Azerbaijani and Russian. He currently works as a research assistant focused on Turkish foreign policy and hopes to return to Turkey after finishing his degree at Oxford to focus his career on transnational politics of conflict across Eurasia.
Nayantara Arora, Arabic Virtual Summer Intensive, 2020
Nayantara Arora is an alumna of the 2020 Virtual Summer Intensive Program for Arabic. Nayantara is currently a student at the University of Oregon, where she majors in Neuroscience with minors in chemistry and global health. At Oxford, she will pursue two master’s degrees, one in modeling for global health and the other in international health and tropical medicine. Nayantara has completed two internships with the State Department, including as a content creator for the International Visitor Leadership Program and as a content creator for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ digital platforms. Additionally, she has held several Research Assistantship positions within medical and global health labs at the University of Oregon. Finally, she has participated in and internship and study abroad program in Accra, Ghana and traveled to Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Saudi Arabia through the UO’s Division of Global Engagement to pursue interests in global health.
Nayantara’s interest in Arabic is also related to her interests in public health. Nayantara aspires to work in the MENA region in public/community health. Her NSLI-Y program cemented her conviction towards working in the intersection of health and international affairs. She notes the importance of language skills in international and local advocacy. “There is no better way to build community than to break down the barriers which divide members: communication disparities and cultural misconceptions, among many others.” Nayantara also appreciates the cross-cultural communication skills she developed during NSLI-Y, which have helped her continue to work with diverse communities and populations. Nayantara credits NSLI-Y with teaching her about “finding commonalities to bond over, how to represent the U.S. as a citizen diplomat, and flexibility in new situations.”
For those interested in the Rhodes Scholarship, Nayantara recommends allowing plenty of time to work on the application and its essays. She encourages applicants to be introspective and reflective, and to reflect on how their life experiences have shaped them. "Reflect on how you would like to channel your experiences and passions into an academic or professional goal. Crafting this sort of a narrative takes time, and I found journaling and free writing to be helpful.”